Artist and Standing Rock protester Merritt Johnson brings exhibition to Fresno State

Artist Merritt Johnson

The work of a collection of multimedia artists who positioned themselves as “water protectors” at Standing Rock, N.D., in opposition to the North Dakota Access Pipeline will be on display at Fresno State Jan. 17-27 in the Phebe Conley Art Gallery.

“This is a Creation Story: Merritt Johnson and the Unnamed Collective” is a multimedia exhibition that will combine video installation, sculpture and performance. Sponsored by the Department of Art and Design and the Center for Creativity and the Arts, “This is a Creation Story” features work created by Johnson individually and in collaboration with other artists known as the “Unnamed Collective.”

The free, public exhibition will be on display at the Phebe Conley Art Gallery Jan. 17-27, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Johnson will give an artist lecture from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 24 in Conley 101, followed by a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Phebe Conley Art Gallery, also free and open to the public.

Johnson is a multidisciplinary artist of mixed Mohawk, Blackfoot, Irish and Swedish heritage. She works in sculpture, performance, video and painting. As an individual artist, and as part of a collective, Johnson’s “This is a Creation Story” invites viewers’ introspection on themes like cultural appropriation, diversity, creativity, as well as the survival of land and culture, the impact of violence, and limited resources and perception.

Cindy Urrutia, director of the Center for Creative and the Arts, said the exhibition will challenge viewers to engage in profound conversations regarding social camouflage and protection, community and peoples’ relationship with land. 

“Johnson wants the exhibition to remind viewers that we are ‘open containers,’” said Urrutia, “Open containers can receive, hold and transmit knowledge, culture, connection and community. The caveat is that what flows through us as open containers can be good or bad, creative or destructive. We decide what type of containers we will become, what stories we will tell.”

Johnson and other members of the “Unnamed Collective” assert that as one humanity, we have a duty to live in harmony with each other and all living things. They filmed at Standing Rock during the months of October and November, creating film, video installations, sound and performance works collaboratively with artists Cannupa Hanska Luger (who is coming to Fresno State in March), Nicholas Galanin, Dylan McLaughlin and Ginger Dunhill, among others.

The Center for Creativity and the Arts serves a hub for arts in which artists from a variety of backgrounds can work to stimulate public engagement through inquiry, discussion and understanding.

For information, contact Urrutia at or 559.278.8341.

Posted by

The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.